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Communication and Information Resources

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Communication and Information Sector's news service

Telecentres help put computers to work for small business in Malanville

14-08-2006 (Paris)
UNESCO alongside other partners like the Government of Benin, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and UNDP supported a training course offered by the Malanville Community Telecentre.
“Everything has changed in the way I do business, for example the inventory – it used to take me three to four days to by hand what I do now do in a half day. Thanks to the computer I know what I have in stock, what customers are buying, and it is easy to track my business from day to day,” says Soufiane Gao, a small business owner in the town of Malanville in northern Benin.

“During the awareness raising process, we realised that there was a need for better business practices among many local merchants; however when it came to learning, as soon as we started talking about using different software and things like opening windows, they were not at all interested. In time, we set about a process to observe local merchants in their shops and we started to understand their operations and to identify their specific needs. We created a series of tools especially for them using the Excel software, for example, one for the stock, one for cash receipts. We put together a very practical course for them,” explains Mora, the telecentre coordinator.

Following the course, Mr Gao became a regular telecentre user. Convinced of the utility of new technologies like those he was exposed to at the Malanville telecentre, Mr Gao eventually purchased his own computer, which is now on the desk in the middle of his dry goods shop in Malanville’s busy market.

The Malanville telecentre, which began operations in 2003, runs a variety of training courses and offers a range of services, from public telephone to photocopying to computer maintenance for local offices and businesses. Some 750 people from the local area have learned basic computing skills thanks to the community telecentre.

The centre has also designed special courses and programmes, for instance, the centre offers a special course and has identified (and stored) specific content for students of Arabic: learners use materials form Arabic language websites and locally produced learning aids and are also able to make virtual visits to important pilgrimage sites. The telecentre team is now preparing a new course for local merchants.

Soufiane Gao is a community-minded businessman who is also the president of the radio society for the FM station in Gaya, a town across the Niger river in neighbouring Niger. “I have even started to design my own tools,” he explains, while showing off the Excel sheets he uses to monitor his business activities. “I am proud because after taking the course, when others come to see me, I am able to show them the advantages of using a computer.”

Unfortunately, the Malanville Community Telecentre may face some tough days ahead due to an unclear ownership structure and reliance on project funds, which are all but depleted. However the addition of a community radio in Malanville promises new opportunities in the area of local information and communication and the community is discussing ways to renew their vision of a locally owned and operated centre. Moreover if the story of Soufiane Gao is any indication, community-based communication and information facilities like the Malanville Telecentre clearly serve a valuable role in the economic and social life of the local community, no doubt the first ingredient of viability.
Telecentres help put computers to work for small business in Malanville Sofiane Gao with his computer
Related themes/countries

      · Multipurpose Community Telecentres
      · Benin: News Archive
      · Access to Information: News Archives 2006
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